From the get-go, “Mononoke” is simply stunning. The show employs a unique art style that recreates the aesthetic of Kabuki theater and Ukiyo-e paintings. Like the phenomenal “Gankutsuou: The Count Of Monte Cristo,” the characters are painted on top of a textured background so that when they move, the textures in the characters’ clothes remain static. This style not only gives the show an aesthetic grounded in the era the story is set in, but it creates a bit of an unnerving look. The unmovable textures look surreal, they look wild, they look eerie, and they add to the story’s horror.
Likewise, the use of this distinct art style even helps with some of the more dated elements of the animation. The combination of 3D and 2D at times it creates such an intrinsically uncanny effect that it is easy not to notice the aged CG used in some backgrounds.
I’ve mentioned before in this column how refreshing and exciting it is to see an anime show — or any show today, really — use an episodic format to tell its story. In the case of “Mononoke,” the story is essentially a collection of unconnected detective cases. Each spans two or three episodes, and has distinct monsters, themes, and characters. It is a fantastic choice that makes the unnerving art style easier to take in because the story has natural breaks built into the season.